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News Briefs

Navy Ship May Try Jet Salvage


Two Navy ships left here Thursday afternoon hoping to take advantage of an expected improvement in the rough weather surrounding the wreckage of EgyptAir Flight 990, federal officials said.

The salvage ship Grapple, which is able to lift 7.5 tons of debris, and the ocean tug Mohawk left the Newport Naval Station around 4 p.m. Thursday headed for the site of the crash, about 50 miles off the coast of Nantucket, said Navy Rear Adm. William Sutton.

“They will proceed into open seas and test the sea state. These ships, if they can, will proceed on to the site,” he said. “It will take them most of the night.”

he vessels were dispatched because weather forecasters predicted a “small opportunity” Friday that would enable the ships to reach the wreckage site after two days of rough Atlantic waters prevented recovery, Sutton said.

“We are attempting to take advantage of this forecast,” he said, adding that the ships should be able to operate during daylight hours Friday. “Saturday does not look good.”

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Jim Hall said the ships will focus on finding Flight 990’s two black boxes, but he did not know how long that might take. He said the other priority is to recover victims’ remains from the crash early Sunday morning.

AOL Sued By National Blind Group


The National Federation of the Blind yesterday filed a lawsuit against America Online Inc., contending that the Internet service provider discriminates against the blind because its system is incompatible with software that helps the visually impaired use computers.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, says AOL is violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by refusing to modify its programming despite several requests over the past year. Most aids that translate computer graphics and text into Braille or sounds do not work with AOL’s current software.

“They say that “we would really like to help you,’ ” said Curtis Chong, technology director for the federation. But, “in the end, they have not fixed the problem.”

AOL spokesman Rich D’Amato said company programmers are working on a new version of its software, due out next year, that will be accessible to the visually impaired. “We are disappointed that they have filed their lawsuit,” he said.

The screen-access scanners the blind use to “read” graphics depend on them to be tagged with words that describe the pictures. Many other Internet service providers, including MindSpring and AT&T Corp., use such labels, Chong said. But AOL’s ubiquitous “You’ve got mail!” thumbnails, advertisements and other icons do not, making it difficult for the blind to maneuver through the system and find the information they want. The service provider’s software also presents a problem because it requires customers to use a mouse click, instead of a keystroke, to perform some functions.

Chong said his office has fielded about 10 complaints a week for the past two years from blind consumers frustrated at not being able to hook up to AOL.